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08/14/1998 11:07:04 Relaxed Yeltsin in good mood despite Russia crisis

By Adam Tanner

NOVGOROD, Russia, Aug 14 (Reuters) - A relaxed and smiling

President Boris Yeltsin put a brave face on Russia's financial

crisis on Friday when he interrupted his holiday to visit this

mediaeval city northwest of Moscow.

Yeltsin, who briefly donned a white cap and white coat to

inspect a meat processing factory, said he had no plans to end

his holiday early and even seemed jovial as he fielded

reporters' questions about turbulence on financial markets.

"I definitely should not come back (to Moscow) now," Yeltsin

said after stepping off his plane and pressing the hands of

young women who greeted him in traditional costume in Novgorod,

about 350 km (220 miles) northwest of Moscow.

"That would signify that there was turmoil, that would

signify that there was a disaster and that everything was

collapsing. On the contrary, everything is going as it should.

The president is resting."

Yeltsin emphasised his point by later flying back to Valdai

-- not Moscow -- from Novgorod, which dates back to the ninth

century, was once Russia's biggest city and was a pioneering

artistic and political centre for about 600 years.

In his first public appearance in about a month, he told

reporters he would continue the policy of a stable rouble, one

of the few concrete economic achievements of his second term as

president.

"There will be no devaluation -- that's firm and definite,"

he told reporters.

Asked whether he still supported Prime Minister Sergei

Kiriyenko, Yeltsin said: "Yes, yes, I will keep him on."

Yeltsin, who was accompanied by his wife Naina, at times

smiled broadly and said he felt "fine". He had heart surgery in

November 1996 and pneumonia soon afterwards.

Even so, the president had trouble hearing several questions

on his arrival and was helped by his press secretary, Sergei

Yastrzhembsky.

At one point later, during the visit to the meat processing

plant, Yeltsin seemed to lose sight of his trusted aide.

The quick-thinking Yastrzhembsky, who had been close to

Yeltsin all the time, removed his white peaked cap and said with

a smile: "Would it be better if I took off my hat?"

Yeltsin said his priorities on his return to the Kremlin

would be the economy and some unspecified "personnel issues",

raising the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle.

He also urged parliament to meet in emergency session to

consider the government's anti-crisis programme.

Yeltsin has been on vacation for most of the time since July

18, first in the northwestern lakeland of Karelia and then at

Valdai near Novgorod.

"A half a day you rest, then two days or work, then half of

rest," Yeltsin said.

Yastrzhembsky told Reuters: "Our president rests a lot less

than you think."

Before leaving Novgorod after about three hours, Yeltsin

told a few hundred residents in the town's historic Kremlin

fortress that within days he would sign a decree renaming the

city Veliki (Great) Novgorod.

Locals say such a move would help differentiate their city

from the now larger and economically more important Nizhny

(Lower) Novgorod.

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